On the weekend my family knows where to find me. I will be in my office watching the Premier League. I do not have a favourite team, so I will watch whichever game happens when I arrive in my big comfy chair. The weekend is also a time for new music. Friday is album drop day, which means Saturday and Sunday have to share football with new music.
On this particular Saturday, Manchester United were playing, which meant two of the brightest stars in football would be playing. Christiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes. Neither player contributed to the scoreboard, and their opposition for the day, Aston Ville, won the game with a late goal from Kortney Hause which turned out to be the match-winner. Bruno Fernandes of ManU via Portugal missed a stoppage-time penalty as Aston Villa recorded a rare Premier League victory over Manchester United, winning 1-0 at Old Trafford. The other Portuguese player on the pitch that day and arguably one of the best players in the history of football, Christiano Ronaldo, failed to put his name on the score sheet for that day.
That gives you, the reader, a snapshot of what I was watching yesterday, two football players from Portugal. What I was listening to and the reason for the preamble of this blog is the Portuguese music featured in a new album that I have been listening to, ‘Exotic Quixotic.’ The EP is by a group of very talented musicians Neil Leyton, Mikael Lundin (a.k.a. Micke Ghost), João Sousa, Omiri, O Gajo, Abel Beja, Janne Olson and other artists that come and go within the collective known as Lusitanian Ghosts. The band’s genesis happened when Neil Leyton brought Micke Ghost a Viola Amarantina from Lisbon to Stockholm. I would suggest that at this point you should watch the feature documentary film ‘Lusitanian Ghosts: Making Of the Lusitanian Ghosts debut album – Chordophone Rock n Roll.’ Watching the video will help you in understanding how these historical instruments are the real Lusitanian Ghosts.
This experimental folk-rock singer-songwriter record has only chordophones: Amarantina, Braguesa, Terceira and Campaniça, with guest appearances by an electric bass guitar and various percussion instruments. Lusitanian Ghosts replaced the snare drum in many songs with the Adufe, a Portuguese square drum.
I have waffled back and forth as to my opinion regarding this recording. It is undoubtedly a pleasure to hear these beautiful instruments that must have been a joy to tune to mesh with each other. These players have crafted an album that is unlike any other album. There are so many cultures around this globe and countless instruments unique to each ethnic group. I am glad to have been able to hear some good Portuguese-influenced music on their traditional instruments. Portugal has given us many unique gifts, from football players to musical instruments.
I am still uncertain about my feelings towards this recording. The musicians’ playing is marvellous, but something is missing—something to make this extraordinary music rise higher and more vital.
The chordophones took center stage but didn’t hog the spotlight, so they aren’t the problem. The bass and percussion held their fair share of the show and shone in their own spotlights; no problem there. About all I can say about the instrument playing on Exotic Quixotic is that it is top-notch. These guys know how to get a groove going, and it was a joy to listen to these masterful players.
The vocals are interesting. Neil Leyton is the lead singer and a co-writer of this album, and he has a decent voice. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t much above average either. It is well-grounded in the middle of capable. There are moments when his voice rose and shone, such as in the song For the Wicked. He was squeezing emotion out, and it was a beautiful thing. Neil needs to capture and bottle that magic. He shows us that he can do better, and I believe he has that power in his grasp. It just slipped away on a good portion of this recording.
There is one other thing that Neil Leyton could do to make future records rise above the crowd. He needs to throw his rhyming dictionary away. At 8:36 in the video, he is asking what rhymes with Johnson. Does it need to rhyme? I think he over rhymes, in my opinion. It sounds contrived and forced. Let your muse wander away from the rhyming dictionary and give it some freedom. Maybe read some freeform poetry. You write some good material. It just needs more space to grow, not so constrained by rhyming.
On another side note, London Calling is one of my all-time favourite albums and songs. I have played it live with bands as well as torturing my guitar practicing in the basement. So, when I heard Lisbon Calling, I immediately got nervous that I was about to listen to a clone with different words. That didn’t happen, Lisbon Calling pays homage to The Clash, but it doesn’t rip it off. Well done, Lusitanian Ghosts; you flirted with the original but didn’t jump into bed with it.
By the time I had listened to this album about a dozen times, I had tried ever so hard to find the good in it. I did. There are lots of quality moments in Exotic Quixotic. I just had to listen harder and find them. I found excellent music coming from instruments that I had never listened to before; that is a good thing. I heard a band playing tight together that made the hair on my arms tingle. That is good.I listened to a lead writer and lead singer with potential, and I think he will rise to that high bar. That is good. I heard good production and mixing; well-done, lads. I found lots of good in Lusitanian Ghosts; let your journey of discovery begin now and listen to Exotic Quixoti.
Released on July 30, the ‘Revolt Against An Age of Plenty’ LP is available as a coloured double-vinyl gatefold LP and gatefold CD with 16-page lyrics booklet. It is also everywhere online, including Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp.
‘It’s a Wonderful Lie’ https://youtu.be/1JSbB1NK1Yo
‘Revolt Against An Age of Plenty’ https://youtu.be/_toOqZGoBBY
Album teaser https://youtu.be/wgHy8NdfNN4
The Great Leap Forward digital orders https://share.amuse.io/album/the-great-leap-forward-great-leap-forward